How new expats can conquer time changes

  • changing time
Published on 2024-04-05 at 14:00 by Estelle
Switching between summer and winter times is an unavoidable step in many countries worldwide, especially in Europe, where the change has been the subject of much debate for several years. So, how do you adjust if you've just moved from a country where it's not the norm?

Which countries switch between summer and winter time?

Believe it or not, this does not apply to the whole world. Some countries and states don't, and those that do don't always do it on the same date, except in Europe, where countries are coordinated every year.

Currently, Europe, most of the USA, Canada, Chile, Paraguay, Mexico, New Zealand, 4 Australian states (South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania), and Lebanon apply summer and winter times. The rest of the world has never changed time, or no longer does, but did in the past (e.g., Russia, North Africa, most of Asia, and South America).

One of the main goals of applying summer time or winter time is to save energy by extending summer evenings, thereby reducing the use of lighting and heating. It also aims to optimize access to natural light and promote more efficient working and leisure hours. Despite its original objectives, there is still debate about its actual effectiveness in achieving them.

In Europe, there have been discussions about ending the seasonal time change in 2018. In fact, the European Commission proposed in September 2018 to end the seasonal time change and allow member states to choose whether to remain permanently in summer or winter. Following this proposal, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union discussed the issue and agreed on a reform in March 2019. It was planned that the reform would not be implemented until 2021 to give member states time to prepare and coordinate. However, with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, this project was shelved, and this time change is still in force in 2024.

In the U.S., however, the U.S. Senate approved a bill in March 2022 that could make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent in the country starting in 2023. However, the bill, called The Sunshine Protection Act, has not yet been officially implemented, and federal law still prohibits states from adopting DST permanently.

How do you adjust to the changes in time when you move abroad?

When moving to a new country, adjusting to daylight saving time can be challenging, especially when facing a new time zone. These time changes can impact your daily routine, which can be difficult to manage when you are an expatriate. Here are some tips to help you adjust and settle into your new country.

Learn about local rules

Before you arrive, it's a good idea to learn about the specific daylight-saving time rules in your host country. As mentioned above, some countries don't observe these changes, while others make them twice a year.

Check and update your equipment on D-Day

Whether you're already in your new country or about to move there, make sure your watches, alarm clocks, computers, and other electronic devices are set to the correct local time, whether it's daylight saving time or standard time. Most technological devices update themselves automatically but don't hesitate to check.

Adjust your biological clock to your rhythm and be patient

When moving to a new country, it can take time to adjust to a new time zone and time change. Our advice, if you have the opportunity, is to gradually shift your sleep and wake-up times to acclimate to the new time gently. The most important thing is to give yourself the time you need. Everyone is different; some people adjust quickly, while others need more time. As with a new time zone, adjusting to daylight saving time can take a few days or even weeks. Be patient with yourself and expect periods of adjustment.

Prepare yourself mentally

Psychology plays an important role in adapting to time changes. So stay positive by reminding yourself of the benefits of the change, and remember that you'll get used to it over time.

Use natural light whenever possible

Experts are clear: daylight can significantly impact your biological clock and, therefore, your adjustment to the time change. So, try to spend some time outdoors during the day to help your body adjust to the seasonal change.

Rearrange your activities as much as possible

Anticipate the time change and plan your activities accordingly. For example, although the changeover is usually scheduled for Saturday night (for obvious reasons), try to avoid having any significant commitments the following morning if the changeover is imminent. If you have children, prepare them for the changeover as well if you usually have activities planned with them on Sunday morning.

Use support tools

Sleep-tracking apps, light simulators, and other tools can help you cope with DST changes.

Talk to a health professional if needed

Finally, if you find it more difficult than expected to adjust to the time change once you've settled into your host country, don't hesitate to consult a doctor or sleep specialist for further advice. This type of problem is common among expatriates who have just moved to a country with a new time zone. Any small additional change can exacerbate these difficulties. So don't take it lightly.